Skeptics' Forum

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CAN GOVERNMENTS REALLY KEEP SECRETS?

I wish to offer an affirming comment on Philip J. Kiass's astute observation in Gary Posner's marvelous interview, "ETs May Be Out There..." (Vol. 7, No. 4): "the only secrets that can be successfully kept are those known to only one person." Two decades of work in the national security field allow me to say that Mr. Klass knows whereof he speaks. All the way back in July 1970, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy concluded that "tightly controlled information will remain secret, on the average for perhaps five years. But on vital information, one should not rely on effective secrecy for more than one year." When confronted by a UFO true believer who states that the government has kept the existence of crashed interstellar craft and alien bodies secret for over 50 years, I always answer, "Government? Our government?!"

Ronald M. Wade, Rockwall, TX,

wadespy@aol.com

RELIGION CAN KILL

In the Skeptics Forum (Vol. 8, #1), Allison Demarkles criticizes Robert L. Miller' s article, "Christian Science and the Perversion of Quantum Physics." Mr. Demarkles asserts that the only fair way to know or to test Christian Science is to read the works of Mary Baker Eddy.

Another way to know or judge Christian Science is to examine the consequences of some of its practices. In this regard, readers will be interested in an article titled "Child Fatalities from Religion Motivated Medical Neglect' published in the April 1998 issue of Pediatrics. The study examined the deaths 172 children who were treated solely with faith healing and reported the probability of survival had proper medical care been provided. Of these deaths, almost 50% were caused by two religious sects, the relatively unknown Faith Assembly, and the first Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science). Tragically, over 140 of these children had a 90% or better chance of survival with standard medical treatment. The most frequent illnesses included meningitis, pneumonia, appendicitis, and diabetes.

In one sense, I disagree with both Mr. Demarkles and Mr. Miller. I think that far too much time is spent dwelling on the writings of the troubled Mary Baker Eddy. That otherwise normal people can be led to disbelieve in germs and allow their children to suffer and die speaks loudly of the operant conditioning used so effectively by the Christian Science church for indoctrination purposes.

While the indoctrination involves many factors, its essence is the constant repetition of healing stories, principally in testimonial meetings and the endless stream of Christian Science literature that adherents are kept busy reading. Initiates are deceptively kept unaware that these healings are the result of a person's immune system, in the case of illness, or that eventually the vicissitudes of life tend to sort themselves out, in the case of personal problems. Christian Science healing is based on a mountain of lies and the fatal consequences for children deserve more attention.

Richard Smiley, Ph.D., Juneau, AK,

rsmiley@gci.net

SKEPTICS OVERSTEP THEIR GANZFELD BOUNDS

The worst possible kind of dogmatic "skepticism" is exemplified in the letter from Ross La Haye (SKEPTIC, Vol 8, No 1). Referring to Brown and Kauffman's article on probabilities he says "I've long suspected that the ganzfeld studies...were seriously flawed for the simple reasons that Brown and Kauffman outline in their piece." It appears that La Haye is willing, because of his a priori bias, to accept any skeptical explanation of the ganzfeld results--however feeble--rather than even consider the possibility that they might be genuine, or learn enough about ganzfeld methodology to make a reasoned assessment of the results. In fact there is absolutely no way that the interesting game described by Brown and Kauffman could be relevant to the ganzfeld studies--and Brown and Kauffman do not claim it could be. …